A Hare-Raising Tale: Mysterious “Bunny Man” terrorises denizens of Northern Virginia

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"The last known crime sketch of the Bunny Man" GRAPHIC BY CAITLIN MCCLAIN AND GAVIN AQUIN / THE FLAT HAT

It was a dark and stormy night — or something like that — along the Colchester Road Bridge, an overgrown and moldy railroad overpass with a short, arched tunnel carved out over the road beneath. Today, numerous students at the College of William and Mary might pass through this rotting tunnel on their journey to or from campus. But way back in the year 50 B.C. (Before Coronavirus, i.e., 1970), the bridge was apparently a sought-after destination for young lovers, many of whom might have been college students like ourselves, to park the car and shack up for an evening of romance. Wink, wink.

So goes the tale of that dark and stormy night. Allegedly, a hometown baby-faced cadet thought he’d take his sweetheart for a spin and inevitably found himself parked in a field in the town of Clifton, VA, adjacent from the fabled railway bridge. As he began to lay the moves on his lady, there was a most unexpected turn of events. A shattering blow was dealt to the steamed-up back window by a hurling hatchet. The couple knew they were under attack as the assailant approached the vehicle. The cadet shifted the car into drive and floored the gas pedal. As he sped away from the scene, a terrified glance in the rearview mirror revealed the disturbing truth: a small, screaming man dressed in a children’s rabbit costume had thrown the hatchet, which now sat idle in the back seat on the passenger side. Who was this man? What was the motive? What was he yelling about? Why the Donnie Darko-esque Rabbit suit?  50 years of police investigations and reported sightings have passed, and still the answers to these questions are not clear. All we know is this is not the barrack bunny the young cadet had hoped to find on that dark and stormy October evening.

Over the years, the tale of the “Bunny Man” has been met with much fanfare across the Northern Virginia area. Each year around Halloween, people flock from across the nation to Colchester Road Bridge, colloquially referred to as “Bunny Man Bridge,” dressed in the famous furry attire donned by the bad man himself and wielding various farming tools or other common items that double as weapons to emulate the hatchet. It is rumored that if one stands beneath the bridge alone with closed eyes and calls out for the Bunny Man thrice, he will appear from the shadows for a an in-person meet and greet, highlighted by a complimentary throat slashing. It’s similar to Bloody Mary in a dark bathroom, except you die under a dilapidated bridge instead of in the comfort of your own home. Go figure. Since the man reported to the authorities by the cadet in 1970 was never remotely close to being found, the Bunny Man is today considered somewhat of an urban legend, and arguably Virginia’s most well-known. It’s no Jersey Devil or Hodag of northern Wisconsin, but a threat nonetheless.

It is unclear exactly how many lives the Bunny Man has claimed as of the present day, although I imagine it is quite a few, given the following reasons: 1) The area around the bridge remains relatively secluded. 2) People voluntarily sacrifice themselves to his mercy. 3) He continues to operate unhindered by the COVID-19 pandemic, as the dense fur and plastic buck teeth on his mask provide above-average facial screening and therefore greatly decrease his likelihood of contracting the virus. Also, his primary values of death, destruction, and chaotic disorder align with those of the coronavirus itself, suggesting that he might be using the virus as a sort of accomplice. We can’t tell for sure, but it would be safe to assume that the Bunny Man of Northern Virginia is as dangerous and deadly as we have guessed, now more than ever.

Luckily, the College is here to save the day and bail out the commonwealth of Virginia once again — we’ve grown quite accustomed to this — and this time we need not even bother with brain power. Queue the collective sigh of relief from the student body, each of whom can count on one or two hands the number of times they have done something productive since March. Even on our worst days, the college is a force to be reckoned with. Anyway, here is the plan: we unleash the Griffin on the Bunny Man. Like I said, most other urban legends against the Griffin and I might be worried. The Griffin’s sharp talons and beak probably couldn’t penetrate the rock-solid scales of the Hodag, nor can its bird brain out-strategize the insurmountable deception that the Jersey Devil uses against it. In other words, it is entirely likely the Griffin would meet its match in one of these homegrown antiheroes. The tale of the tape between the Bunny Man and the Griffin, however, appears to be a stalemate upon first glance. A Griffin is essentially a cross between a lion and an eagle, two predators that possess the inherent ability to hunt, catch and kill a rabbit. However, man is the food chain’s undisputed apex predator. So, it is hard to say definitively which combatant should have the upper hand. However, I argue that the Griffin would dispose of the Bunny Man with surprising ease. Why? We have all seen the Griffin, confidently guarding the gates of Zable Stadium, and know the creature well. Featuring two gigantic and perfectly round eagle eyes, a marvelous pair of luscious wings, the pinpoint sharpened and erect beak and, of course, those bulging cast-iron … well, you get the idea. Sure, the Bunny Man might swing his silly hatchet around or whatever, but the Griffin boasts enough muscle mass that even the Bunny Man’s strongest blows will feel like trying to break a fortified stone prison wall with an polypropylene spoon. Also, based on the cadet’s description of the original Bunny Man assault, the assailant did not demonstrate adequate proficiency in attacking with a weapon, nor in hunting strategy. That is to say, whoever the Bunny Man is, he seems to be more of an Elmer Fudd than a Genghis Khan. The Griffin on the other hand is a proud and regal beast, capable of imposing its will onto a frail opponent like the Bunny Man. In the Griffin’s arsenal are razor sharp talons used in hand-to-hand combat, a piercing beak that can impale like a jagged-tipped lance, wings to attack by air like an Apache helicopter, or tree-trunk legs that charge harder than a bull down the red-draped streets of Pamplona. The altercation therefore doesn’t figure to be another epic battle of Grecian lore. What the Griffin will do the Bunny Man will look a lot more like what James Madison did to the Tribe football team last fall. Now if only we could get the Griffin to suit up on Saturday afternoons for us, we might actually win a few games, but that’s beside the point.

I do not condone violence, but seeing as the Bunny Man has shown no signs of voluntarily ending his reign of terror, and since these are all made up creatures, I think this hypothetical plan is most appropriate. It is our duty as an institution to keep our students safe, serve our community and restore the good name to the most dignified likes of the White Rabbit and the March Hare. The people might say sending in the University of Virginia Cavalier to try and diffuse the situation first is a not-as-harsh or less extreme option, but I argue that in situations like these we can afford no half measures and it would be for the ultimate best interest of the people to dispose of the Bunny Man as quickly and as ruthlessly as possible.

Matthew Kortan is a Confusion Corner Columnist who urges students living in the northern Virginia area to stay alert and keep an eye out for any suspicious lagomorph activity on or around Clifton’s Colchester Road Bridge. Please report any incidents to mrkortan@email.wm.edu.